After striking unexpected success with 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, Brooklyn-based group MGMT reflects on the past three years of pop spotlight with its sophomore effort, Congratulations.
While any up-and-coming act would bask in the glory of having been called the next best thing in music, frontmen Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser make the uneasiness regarding their sudden popularity clear on the new album, which features nine tracks ranging from experimental classics to psychadelic oddities. The result is an album that’s as mixed as MGMT’s emotions about its unantipicated superstardom.
The commercial sound behind past hits “Kids” and “Time to Pretend” may be absent, but MGMT more than makes up for it with the surf rock track, “It’s Working.”
VanWyngarden’s entrancing vocals over the immediacy of the guitar and drums, along with the haunting oboe solo backed by rapid bongo playing, make the song about Ecstasy a near masterpiece.
The dreary title track conveys MGMT’s obliviousness to fame with its telling lyrics and the minimalist sound of an acoustic guitar with a hint of Asian strings, proving the group can still craft a hit out of a song that has so little to work with.
On the busy side, MGMT’s innovative experimentalism shines on teaser track “Flash Delirium,” in which the group manages to squeeze many different genres into the four minutes of this psychedelic pop ditty. Suprisingly, the track is an addictive trip that outdoes anything played on the radio today with its sonically pleasing-yet-refreshing new sound.
MGMT’s risks take a turn for the worse, though, on “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” which features an ambient piano background that later builds into shrilling screams and dissonant violin playing that ultimately makes the track seem like filler at best. Much like “Nightmare,” the songs on the second half of the album get weird even for MGMT’s taste, with so much going on that it becomes a distraction to the almost immaculate set.
Despite its flaws, it is the brilliant moments on Congratulatons that have fans and tastemakers alike hoping that a farewell party isn’t in the works for the vanguardists MGMT.